Monday, April 30, 2007

Since I gave you such a crappy unsatisfying rant today...

If you want to relive the horror that was my kidding season...just was a joyous occasion....really it was.

My latest recruit to The Cabal of Goats(and Sheep, too!), Hidden Haven Homestead, is experiencing a blessed event any moment now. Do check on Peggy's blog for updates of her doe, Diva's kidding. I've seen the pictures...looks like multiples to me!

She's also taking suggestions for names for the little buggers!

Arch Nemesis'

I don't feel much like writing anything important today. I've been pretty sicky over the weekend and am just starting to feel a bit better. No biggie...just lupus crap.

Living like a senior citizen...disability...fixed income and all that...sometimes makes you act like one. I haven't quite sunk to the level of obsessively writing letters to the editor, but I get close sometimes.

My good, good friend and right-wing nutter, Jane asked me if I really had the peace that I seem to have here with my little farm and simple existence. I do, mostly. The things that bother me here are different from the things that bothered me in my previous life. Lack of money, mostly. But I do have two arch nemesis'.

The power company and the phone company.

The AT&T/Bell South gripes me because they won't do anything to upgrade our phone lines here so we meet the standards most of the rest of the country enjoy. I'm not asking for high speed access...I just want dial-up that can connect at 56K. I can only access the Internet at 26K because the phone lines are so ancient. I've had several go-rounds with them over the years just to keep that standard in place. Sometimes they let the lines get so bad that you can't even connect. I'm thinking about asking the local representative what to do about it. I know it's just because they think we are a bunch of slack-jawed hillbillies who are thrilled to even have a telephone. But it gripes me. It really does.

Of course, we pay full price for this substandard service.

And they lie. The phone company...they lie like dogs.

But they are a nemesis simply because they are a large uncaring, soul-less corporation bent on sucking every last bit of profit from the masses.

The power company is a bit more amusing. When I first moved here, I tried to sign up for their program for social security beneficiaries. It's not a big deal. It just allows you to pay your bill when your SSDI check comes through without getting a late fee. I'm religious about paying my bills on time.

I went round and round with them about this for months. They had neglected to say in their program that it was only for little old ladies and not for the disabled. They had definite ideas about who they wanted to offer the program to...despite the obvious ADA legal ramifications of doing that. I finally did get the program, but only after months of bizarre "Who's on first?" conversations and emails to the president of the company.

So last week, I've just completed a 2000 word article and am about to save the damn thing when the power goes out. It's a sunny day, no wind...there is no excuse for the outage except perhaps some car vs. mountain accident down the road. I lose my entire article.

I stomp out onto my porch in my bathrobe at 3 p.m. and let flow one of my articulate sonatas of of the perks of living in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Newport Utilities featured prominently in the refrain of said sonata of profanity.

I look over and there, sitting slack-jawed in his truck, is a workman for Newport Utilities staring at me.

I stared back at him. Then stomped over and looked around at my meter. There is another workman standing at the box looking at me like venison in headlights.

"What are you doing??!!" I say in the exasperated tone of a mad, mad woman.

"We changin' the meter." They say.

I go into a tirade of my five hours of work that was just lost and how I'd now be stuck for another three hours reconstituting an article I'd already written and that always takes the edge off my writing doing that. And why couldn't they just knock on my door and let me know they were going to cut the power? Basically stuff way above these guy's level of comprehension that they don't care about anyway.

"We sorry."

I grab my one aggressive cocker spaniel and frog march him into the house. I send off a nasty email to the company telling them how boneheaded I think it is that they don't have a policy to inform customers of non-accidental power outage and that I expect to be notified if it happens again...blah, blah, blah...not interested in hearing any justifications, just do it...blah, blah, blah.

As some of you know, I am a legendary insomniac. I gave up fighting it but it means I keep odd hours. So, two days later, I'm jarred from a deep sleep at mid morning by the same guy I went round and round with during my first bout with Newport Utilities.

He's calling me to either apologize, tell me they said they apologized, tell me it is a standing policy of theirs or to get the last word in. Not sure.

Bless their hearts.

So, Jane...yes, there is peace on the mountain. But take my advice and get your place rigged with a solar hybrid system with net metering. Yes, it's a bit "crunchy" and smacks of my hero, Al Gore...but trust me on this one. The idea of seeing my meter run backwards is better than sex.

Phone are on your own.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

This past week, Friend Scott located a round bale of hay for me. It was desperately needed since the pasture still has not recovered. I'm nervous about the hay situation. I'm trying to reserve 10 or 15 of these bales for next winter from the current season. The fellow can't commit right now since he doesn't know how much he'll be able to hay. He, himself, has 500 head of cattle to feed. Normally by this time of year, the fields are full of farmers on tractors cutting hay.

The critters seem to need me to go up there every day and show them the hay. It's clearly right in the middle of their living quarters. They can get to it at will. But they insist that I come up there and put my hands on it and pull parts of it off the trailer. It's like critter communion.

Hope you are having a very happy Sunday.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

One of our local celebrities had done been busted by the revenuers.

Famed author, Cocke county resident and moonshine expert Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton of "Me and My Likker" fame is scheduled to appear in court on May 9th to face charges for possession of untaxed liquor and possession of a still or operating parts of a still.

We aren't sure why everybody thinks he's from Maggie Valley...Popcorn Sutton stories are legendary and go far back in Cocke county. He does have an antique store and keeps an address there.

Seems that despite the numerous public declarations that he is only an expert at the fine art of illegal distilling and couldn't even lift a 25 pound bag of sugar or manage a still operation with his bad back an' all, that the smooth stuff Popcorn makes with such skill is still flowing. Or at least it was until just this past Wednesday.

Evidently, what happened of his still sheds outbuildings on his property in Parrotsville caught afire while he was not home. The Cocke county fire department and the local volunteer fire department showed up to put out the blaze before it could burn up the rest of the buildings on the property. And then, of course, the sheriff's department shows up and it all went downhill from there.

Popcorn showed up and asked them very nicely not to tell anyone about the three large stills, assorted copper tubing, big bags of sugar and grain, and the many gallons of white corn likker found there. But they evidently didn't listen.

All in all, just another typical day in Cocke county.

I do feel sort of bad for Popcorn. He's really a moonshine artisan. The stuff he makes is a fine science and an art.

"If you ain’t got the proper equipment to start with‚ then you don’t need to get in the business‚ because you don’t need to kill a bunch of people and make ‘em sick‚” he said· “I wanted to make a product that they’d come back and see me when they got that drunk up."
Since the advent of meth labs and large scale marijuana growing operations in our fair county, fellows like Popcorn are a dying breed. They aren't making gobs of money doing this, it is purely for the art when made the way Popcorn makes his whiskey. He's really a national treasure of sorts.

This is his third run in with the law. The last one was in 1998.

Amazon doesn't have any copies of his book available right now, but you may be able to order them or any of his videos from : Popcorn Sutton‚ P.O· Box 382‚ Maggie Valley‚ N.C.‚ 28751·

Friday, April 27, 2007


It is time to pick these lovely things. They are my first taste of spring greenness.

They would have come up sooner, but we had such a bad hard freeze that killed just about everything.

And the goaties have unfortunately discovered them.

These don't make it into the kitchen very often, quite frankly. I snap them off and eat them in the garden. They are lovely raw and just picked. When I do cook them, I prefer to just lightly steam them and then put some butter and perhaps a bit of garlic on them. It's a simple food, simple and fresh.


If you do want to get a bit fancy with your asparagus...and now is the perfect season to get it at the market...

Here's a lovely quiche recipe to try...

Asparagus Quiche

Pastry for a 9 inch pie pan
12 to 15 asparagus spears, trimmed
boiling water
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup grated Swiss Cheese
6 eggs
2 cups light cream
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Line a 9 inch pie pan with pastry and flute edges. Cook asparagus in 1/2 inch boiling water with 1/4 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes and drain well. Spread cheeses evenly in pastry crust. Place asparagus in pie pan like spokes of a wheel, tips outward. Beat together eggs, light cream, 1 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and pepper. Pour over cheese and asparagus. Bake for 40 minutes in a pan of water until puffed and golden. Cool 5 minutes before cutting. Is excellent cold.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

For Friday Ark

at The Modulator

I went out yesterday and sat in the pasture with my camera. I was alone for a little while. It was really warm and everyone was shacked up in the cool shelter where it is dark and sunless. It takes a while for the goats to get used to the heat. They pant like dogs, eyes glassy. I'd freshened the water earlier but everyone just wanted to stay out of the sun and keep cool.

Soon, they all gathered around me. The adults thoughtfully munching my hair. The babies playing "queen of the mountain". I am the mountain. I end up with pictures like the above shot when that happens. They can't get close enough to me, despite the heat.

I've got everyone but Vi-vi and Bridey off of the bottle and teat. Blinkin' is weaning her lot off slowly. Bridey is tall and thin so I don't mind her still downing so much milk. She is using it to grow more. Vi-vi needs to be weaned but I've come to rely on her for getting those last bits of milk out when my hands hurt too much to milk. My lupus has made my hands grow sideways and they freeze in position sometimes. The milking is good to keep them from freezing up. I knit for the same reason. As long as you can keep joints moving it's a good thing. But sometimes my hands hurt.

"Vi-Vi!!!" I call. She knows the drill so well by now. She's mother's little helper.

But I feel sort of guilty. Vi-vi is getting fat. She has little spare tires behind her widdy elbows.

She's become something of a terror around the does. She just wanders around snatching a guzzle of milk from any of them that get cornered in a tight spot. I'm wondering if I need to enroll her in some non-food related goat activities.

Phoebe is the youngest and the biggest. She's really huge, but very sweet. Her mother, Harper, spent last summer here. Harper is a giant of a doe who is a prodigious milker. I have really high hopes for Phoebe. Harper was supposed to come here from Betsy, The Goat Yoda, in trade for Maggie, "the bitch". But Harper got an udder injury and I am forced to hang onto Maggie, "the bitch", a bit longer. Hopefully I can get a doe kid out of her. Though Maggie has been suspiciously sweet recently. Except for eating my hair.

Take a bow, Phoebe.

I have closish neighbors again. My neighbors who have a cabin above my place have moved back after an absence of several years. They use my upper farm road to get to their house. Nice folks, Jeff and Phyllis.

Guess I'll have to stop mowing the grass in the nude now. I'm considerate that way. Really I am.

I've been getting together a basket of goatie goodness for them. A quart of lebneh, a gallon of milk, some homemade soap and some fudge.

I just developed a new goat milk fudge flavor...Coffee and Cream. It's every bit as good as I imagined and that's what I'm going to take to the neighbors. I don't have it up on my order page yet. But if it strikes your fancy, you could just write it in.

Maggie "The Bitch"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

She freakin' should look sorry. Rotten kid.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I could have just gone in there and taken photos and snarkily portrayed them as the press has done so many times before. I could have just stopped at the snakes and the drinking of "the deadly thing" and left it like that. That's the easy way to go. Stop at the snakes and the poison and snicker. But you know me. That's just not me. And truthfully, the snakehandlers have thoroughly charmed me.

Before I go further on this journey, I wanted you to understand some of what I see in them. Some of what has made them a life-long fascination for me. I want you to know some of what they believe. I want you to understand their sweetness.

If I make mistakes in conveying the nature of their beliefs to you, it is only my imperfect knowledge of them and no deficit of theirs.

I know more about snakes than is strictly appropriate for a someone of my upbringing. We were raised with a healthy respect for poisonous reptiles. As a child, growing up on the coastal wetlands of South Carolina, they were an ever present danger. I remember having a craving for sassafras tea and taking myself, barefoot, off into the woods to gather roots. I looked down in horror to find a nest of just born copperheads just inches from my toes. It was not unusual for me to return home from school to find a huge water moccasin sunning itself on the front porch steps. I witnessed, more than once, the terrible damage their bites wrought on unsuspecting dog noses.

Later, in my teen years, I would help a local herpetologist remove snakes from the tomato fields. The migrant workers would grind to a halt any time a snake was spotted. We were actually trying to save the red rat snakes and the indigo snakes. But just as often, there would be a poisonous snake there.

I first heard of the Pentecostal Church Snakehandlers when I was in college. I was a theater major with very modest acting skills. Okay, really bad acting skills. But I hadn't come to that realization yet, so I was always looking for parts to audition for. One day there was an audition notice for Romulus Linney's "Holy Ghosts". Underneath, in bold, black magic marker it said, "Must NOT be afraid of snakes!!"

So I got my first role in a play and it was the beginning of my fascination with the Pentecostal Church Snakehandlers.

As sensitively as Romulus Linney portrayed them in his play, in hindsight, I don't think he quite "got it".

Jimmy Morrow is the Pastor of the Edwina Church of God in Jesus Christ's Name. I had known about Jimmy since I came here. Because of the blog, I sometimes get inquiries about snakehandling. If I felt they were respectful, I always referred them on to Jimmy. But I only met Jimmy face to face several weeks ago. I had been wanting to attend his service for a while but didn't think it appropriate to show up without an invitation.

Jimmy is not what you would expect. He is a tall man with greying hair and a gentle face who can talk a blue streak. His eyes are bright and animated and when he speaks you are aware of his keen intelligence. It is easy to see why so many university professors and intellectuals have befriended him. He is clearly "one of us". By that, I mean, that his thirst for knowledge and questing mind are evident when he speaks of his topic, the Jesus' Name Snakehandlers and their history. His archives, covering over 100 years of Appalachian history, are as meticulously documented and kept as any university don's. He has every right to be proud of his scholarly achievements.

"I've only got a fifth grade education." He said shyly after the first service I attended, "But I reckon I'm the only one up here that has a book out."

There is no doubt in my mind that had Jimmy been born in another place or time, he would hold three PhD's and be chairing the sociology department at an Ivy League university. His second book is on its way to the publishers.

His wife, Pam, is as quiet as Jimmy is loquacious but she is integral to the partnership. Her beliefs run as deeply as Jimmy's. She exudes a Madonna-like aura of joy, tranquility, love and peace. Just being near her is calming. She is gifted with tongues. She also has a fluting and sweet singing voice that does justice to every song she sings. It is a "joyful noise" indeed.

As a couple, they share a sort of love that one rarely sees. It flows off of them like sunbeams off of running water. It is the sort of love that makes you believe in love again even if you have lost your faith in love.

I'm sure that their shared beliefs and faith have something to do with that. They call it "living by the signs".

The Beliefs

One of the first things I noticed when I entered their church was a large hand drawn sign that had the name of God in Hebrew. Underneath it said, "The Name of God in English is Jesus Christ." That is a principle belief of theirs, that Jesus' name is also the name of God, superseding the Trinity. They believe that all things can be endured or accomplished in Jesus' name.

The Signs

The signs refer to the five attributes given in Mark 16: 17~18

1. Casting out Devils.
2. Speaking in Tongues.
3. Taking up Serpents.
4. Drinking of any Deadly Thing.
5. Laying on of Hands to heal the Sick.

They also take on fire. There is an acetylene torch that sits on Jimmy's pulpit for this purpose. It is not mentioned in Mark 16: 17~18, but it is something that they practice on occasion.

A common misconception is that they do these things as "tests" of faith. They are not testing their faith at all. They believe this is a way of life. They understand that they may die by living this way and sadly, they sometimes do. But they believe that if they "die by the signs", that it is merely God's wish for them to go at that time. It is a mark of honor to die this way and those that do are spoken of reverently.

They are also very gentle about their faith. There is no hard sell or proselytizing here. I found this very appealing about them. They never harp about the fact that they are the "one true" faith...though I'm sure they believe that. They expect people to come to them of their own accord.

So, there are the basics. I'll be looking into their faith more deeply. I'm not sure how far I'll go as of yet. I have no plans to handle serpents myself. My skeptics mind was toying with the theory that perhaps there was a genetic basis that allowed them to live through the dozens of snakebites, drinking of lye and lethal strychnine or being unburnt by fire.

But that was before I discovered I was related to them by blood. I'm not too keen on that idea anymore.

I know you are dying to see a snake at this point. Below is the copperhead I saw handled on Friday by Jimmy. He was in his box on the altar platform. I will get pictures of the actual handling at another time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Friend Scott Story ~ Part 1
A Friend Scott Story ~ Part 2

She weaved and staggered despite the support of the men. Scott and Buddy wedged her in through the door while Mitch held the screen door open.

They hadn't formed a clear plan as to what to do with her once they got her in the house.

Their eyes looked desperately at the furniture as they stood there supporting the massive drunk woman.

She was sagging on their shoulders and the men made a stagger toward the sofa.

"Crap, No!" Mitch said, "She'll bleed all over the sofa. Shelly will kill us all!"

So they lurched over towards a big wingback.

"Not there, damnit!" Mitch said, his eyes frantic.

"What the hell do we do with her? Hurry up, son! She's a biggun!"

Mitch disappeared into the laundry room and picked up a pile of clean towels that had been awaiting folding from the dryer.

He draped the seat of the blue Naugahyde lazy boy recliner with towels and pointed to it.

"There...drop her there, boys!"

Buddy and Scott backed Peggy into the big chair and released her. She fell back hard and the chair's footrest shot out like a see-saw leaving Peggy with her legs sprawling the sides and leaving the injured part of her anatomy peeking out from the hopeful modesty of her skirt.

"Oh, sweet Jesus!" Scott moaned, turning away.

Buddy grabbed a towel and forcefully threw it at the barely covered cooter.

Peggy's head lolled against the reclining back of the recliner and she kept mumbling, "My cooter...hurt the cooter...bwaaah."

The three men stood there breathing hard with exertion and panic.

"Shelly keeps the first aid kit under the sink, Buddy...Could you get it?" Mitch said.

Buddy retrieved the little white box. Mitch opened up the first aid kit and laid out some gauze and some betadine on a towel on the coffee table. He murmured to himself as he did this, "We just gotta get her cleaned up then we's can get her out of here. Get her out of here. Yes we can. We can do this. "

Mitch hands Buddy a hand towel and says, "Here ya go."

Buddy looks at the hand towel like it's a snake.

"What?! Are you crazy?!" Buddy says, ashen. "I can't touch her! Louella would kill me!"

Louella is Buddy's fiancee. Her momma can out-Baptist anyone on the mountain. Buddy knew he was risking damnation from his beloved's family by merely being in the same room with Peggy.

Buddy and Mitch face off and their eyes lock. Both knew they couldn't possibly doctor Peggy without incurring the considerable wrath of the womenfolk. They scowl at each other over the first aid supplies then they both widen their eyes in one of those moments of silent mutual resolution.

They both turn their eyes to Scott.

"He's gay...let him do it!" They both say in the same breath.

Scott turns even paler than before. Buddy throws the offending hand towel to him. Scott catches it and stares at its whiteness with horror.

"I can't do this." he whispered hoarsely.

Peggy moans from the lazy boy. "You'uns my friends. I love you'uns...I really do." Then she starts to cry again.

Mitch adopts a look frustrated sympathy. "Well, we sure as shit cain't! Come on, a man, for God's sake. Be a gay man!"

Scott slowly approached with the towel. He reached a tentative hand out to remove wadded up towel that Buddy had thrown to cover Peggy and replaced it with the hand towel, averting his eyes.

Peggy reached out and grabbed Scott's hand and ground it with the towel between her legs. She giggled drunkenly and looked at him with bleary eyes. The painkillers she had taken previously were obviously kicking in and said cooter was in less discomfort than before.

"Argh...uh...uh...uh!" Scott's eyes flew open in panic.

"Damnit, Peggy!" Buddy snapped. "Be-damn-have! We are tryin' to help you here."

He slapped her hand away from Scott's. Scott stood there shaking. Buddy matter-of-factly poured the betadine on the gauze 4 X 4s and handed them to Scott.

"You need to paint some of this on it." He said with the surety of one who has attended many a large animal veterinary operation.

"Aw, fuck it!" Scott finally broke. He grabbed the entire betadine bottle and squirted the antiseptic in the general direction of the cooter. He sopped up the excess with the hand towel.

"There!" Scott blurted with anger. "Damn cooter is fucking painted. Are you happy now!"

Peggy burbled and giggled again. "Yes, you'uns my good friends. Wanna party?"

She gave her breasts a little jiggle. It was her signature move.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Blanche, Vi-vi and Rose

I hope you are having a great Sunday.

I attended the snakehandling church service last night and again today. Today we went out to the river after the service and watched a river baptism. I'm still digesting everything I saw, heard and experienced. It was quite wonderful and I'm going to be going back. I just observed the snakehandling for the first time last night. I will get pictures of this on another trip. I quite love these people. There is something very gentle and blissful about them.

Friend Scott was with me and sang in that amazing voice of his. He says the tambourines throw him off, but not that I could hear. They invited me to sing, but I am sorely tone deaf and declined.

I'll be writing my first piece about them this week, but I need to think more about this first experience.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I have been tagged by both Pissed-Off Housewife (She who must be obeyed) and Leslie's Omnibus for the "Thinking Blogger Award". I should have gotten to this sooner, but it's market week and this is the first slot I had open.

This is basically a meme, but it does come with a nifty little "award" button. And I like it because, unlike other memes, it asks us to look outside of ourselves. This is basically a narcissistic wonderland, The Blogosphere. It's good to step outside of our own little world every now and again.

The Thinking Blogger meme asks us to list five blogs that cause us to think. This is hard for me since all of my links are ones which make me laugh, make me think, or preferably...both.

Here are my no particular order.

1. Original Faith

I am tag-teaming with Googiebaba in tagging Paul's stunning examination of spirituality and faith in culture. Paul doesn't only present his viewpoint in his blog, he asks us to think about the issues presented. I always allow extra time when I visit since the issues he examines are so complex and multi-textured. Paul is also a poet, an author, holds masters in divinity and counseling. I think he also may be a little bit saint.

2. The Gods Are Bored

Anne Johnson's irreverent examination of past pantheon deities with a sprinkling of politics is described as "Praise and Worship Suggestions for those longing to be Left Behind". She also posts regularly on Appalachian Greens. Anne is a writer, Druid and a DAR member. She posts regular interviews with various deities. Beneath the humor is always something deeper to think about.

From her recent interview with Satan:
Satan: Please call me "Mr. Applegate," Anne. You know I hate all those devil names.

Anne: And I hate you. So there! How about if I call you Stinky? It's more precise.

Applegate: Go ahead. Hurt my feelings. Where's your compassion? How would you like to have my job?

Anne: Not much, Stinky. (For my newer readers out there, I'd like to note that I allow Satan to vent on my blog because I'm not afraid of him. I've got my afterlife booked with a different carrier.)
3. Frogma

My friend Bonnie writes of paddling in the Hudson, sailing and urban gardening. I always feel a bit disoriented on her blog with all the lovely photos of the water and squash blossoms, because I know she lives in Manhattan. She reminds me that you can live in the midst of 8 million people and still remain firmly connected to the earth. Much of her blog is about paddling, but even if you aren't a paddling enthusiast, you will find much of interest. She proves that even in the largest metropolis...there's a flower growing and a river running if you just look for it.

4. The Root Cellar

I have written about Erin before. She never fails to impress me with her pioneering spirit, her poetry and her dignity. She also makes me feel less alone. Many, many people dream the dream of our life of rural isolation. Some give it a whirl, but many fail. She's got cute sheep, too.
Not even the walls of privilege can withstand the flow
violence breaches any green zone
as kings turn to leave with their ammunition heavy plans
lets hold on to whats truly human
seems theres less with every sunrise
or its just harder to find
beneath the clattering weight of spent artillery.

5. Velociworld

Not sure if the meme scene is V-Man's cup of tea, but I really must include him. This guy totally writes me out of the freaking water. And that's saying a lot since I'm a bit cocky about my writing skills. I've learned so much about writing from reading him. We share a connection in that his family vacationed in my hometown, Bluffton. We know many of the same people from there. He had a crush on my sister when he was fourteen. Any of his posts about his relationship with his father, The Senator, are not to be missed.

The Senator was there, of course, but whether he was awake or not was a throw of the die. He generally dined early, and burrowed himself into a mountain of blanketed, snoring content. He thought television was bullshit. Personally I think he was disgusted by the fact there was no pornography. He was an avid aficionado of the naked female form, and likely thought TV was a brilliant medium, wasted. Just a theory.

So anyway, here's how I remember this story. I believe we were all ensconced on the bed, watching The Smothers Brothers or some such. Recollection and legend are uncomfortable roommates, to say the least, but legend wins out, usually. Seems at the climactic point of a show the Senator roused from the fever swamps of his slumbers, addlepated from an earlier bout with John Barleycorn. He stared blankly around, attempting to focus, and blurted out

"Well, Little Miss Earlymouth! What pig are you riding?!?!"

I've tried, over the years, through suasion and necromancy, to enter that dream. It still exists somewhere, a bit of subconscious ephemera, floating like gossamer in the space-time continuum, but to no avail. For that had to be one kinghell dream. Parse it as I might, it could only have been pig races of some sort. Was the Senator racing a pig? Little Miss Earlymouth certainly was. Were the pigs saddled? Who won?

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

Friday, April 20, 2007

April ~ An "R" runs through it...

Bi-Valve Love

This is the last month that traditionally you could safely eat oysters, though there were many a hot summer afternoon that I, as a barefoot child on the Carolina coast, would sit on the dock with a hammer and eat them right out of the shell.

You are either going to love this post or hate it. That is the nature of oyster love. It is either a mad passionate love affair or an utter revulsion. Those of you in the latter category should just turn away now and allow the rest of us to revel in our kinky oyster fetish. Don't hate us for it. It's an irresistible compulsion. We can't help it that we love oysters. We just do.

My mother was a small woman but you needed to stay out of her way at an oyster roast. She could eat her weight in the things. I learned the love by her side as the men would lift the shovel-fulls of steaming mollusks from the fire. They would put them in wet crocker sacks and cover them with sheets of corrugated tin. She would stand there with a glove on one hand, her personal oyster knife and some Spanish moss.

Gently she would show me how to tuck that knife into the back of the shell to pop open the oyster, wrapped in the moss and held with the gloved hand. When I was little, she would just pass the "easy" ones over to me. At the end of the night we would critique whether they had roasted them too long or just right. Just right was where they were hot, but barely distinguishable from a raw oyster. Before the frills curled.

Bluffton is famous for its oysters. They aren't the huge meaty Apalachicola things. They are smaller and more delicate and infinitely more flavorful. The long dead factory on Daufuski Island used to ship oysters to the King of Prussia. They are that good. You can still get those oysters from the Bluffton Oyster Company run by my childhood friends, the Toomer family. Of course, it is much different today than it was when I was growing up. You used to be able to call ahead and ask for a gallon of oysters shucked but not washed. The washing removes the sea brine...something a true oyster lover greatly appreciates. My sister and I would squabble over who got to eat the tiny little parasitic oyster crabs if we were lucky enough to find one.

Oysters were a winter staple of my childhood. They appeared on the table at Thanksgiving in my mother's cornbread oyster dressing. They were served in oysters and rice with bits of crispy bacon and chutney. They were served in oyster pies and pan roasts. And we all loved the tradition of having an oyster cocktail...a bowl of raw oysters topped off with cocktail sauce and a bit of Tabasco.

But the recipe I'm sharing with you today is one of the standard and easy comfort foods of my childhood. I can't remember a time that I didn't love the warm salty-sweet taste of cream and oysters together. There would be a thin film of butter floating on top to enhance the richness.

Oyster Stew
2 pints oysters
1 can evaporated milk
1 can full of whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, warm up milk, evaporated milk and butter. Add oysters. Season to taste. This soup should never boil and is ready when the edges of the oysters frill. Serve immediately with oyster crackers.
Frances Coats Griffeth

Thursday, April 19, 2007

For Friday ARK
The phone rings and I rush around looking for the handset. I find it just before the answering machine picks up saying, "Hi, you've reached Old Maid's Aerie and the home of Rosie's Cocker Rescue Referral...." There are dogs barking in the background of my message. My dogs are very jealous of the time I spend on the phone and they always seem to find occasion to bark. So my outgoing message barks at you.

"Hello? Are you the cocker spaniel lady?"

The voice is soft. And stressed. You know how you can sort of tell how people are emotionally by how they sound over the phone? They actually tell people who work in customer service to "make" like they are smiling when they talk. Those people never listen.

She sounds bad. But most people sound bad when they call me for help. I get worried if they don't.

"Yes, that's me. How can I help you?" I ask, sounding calm.

The tears start to flow over the phone line. The sad story emerges as it has so many times before. It's not a new story. It's a story that we in rescue hear all too often.

The woman is in a domestic abuse situation. The abuser is abusing the family pet as a way to extract the maximum amount of damage to her and the children. Because the bastard knows how much she loves the much those kids love the dog.

She is calling me because she is prepared to give up this family member rather than see it kicked, beaten or mistreated any longer. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine facing that sort of choice?

I tell her what I need. I need photos and the various stats on the dog. I need her to email this information to me so that I can put an alert out.

The sad thing is, I rarely hear back from these women. I don't know what happens. She has either stayed in the situation and the dog has been killed by the abuser or she's surrendered it to the animal shelter. Anything rather than have the abuse continue.

So when I get an email from Bethany Poe, a graduate student with UT's College of Social Work, letting me know about Tennessee Senate Bill 0196 and House Bill 1161 which would allow women who want to leave domestic violence situations to include their pets under their Order of ears pricked up.

'Cause, I gotta tell you...I don't want to ever get another one of these phone calls ever again. I don't want to be the person standing between the anguish and the agony of a family facing this choice. Protecting these non-human family members shouldn't be in question. Did we learn nothing from Katrina? Did we learn nothing from the people who died rather than leave their non-human family members behind? Did we learn nothing from the dogs and cats who died in those attics along with their people? I don't see this as being too much different.

If you are in Tennessee or a Tennessee blogger, I urge you to spread the word about these bills.

This bill is a huge step in domestic violence laws. As many of us know first hand, pets are an important of families. Abuse of those animals doesn't just affect the animals themselves, but also the family members who love them. Abuse of these pets is also a form of abuse to those who love them.
Please contact the following committee members to take action.

Rep. Mark Maddox, Chair

Glen Casada,

Barbara Cooper,

Richard Floyd,

Sherry Jones,

Donna Rowland ,

Johnny Shaw,

For more information about the bill, please follow this link to the American
Humane website. This link will also let you send an email to your senator
based upon your address.

Brochure on the interconnectivity and features of pet abuse within the context of domestic abuse.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact:

Bethanie Poe
Sarah Gwaltney
Jen Holmes
Carolyn Burton Williams

at UT's College of Social Work.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I Got Nothin'

The power's been off most of today so I didn't get much writing or visiting done through the internet tubes. Tomorrow is market much the same for tomorrow. Market day is every third Wednesday. It makes me cranky.

So here's another piccy of Bridey. They are getting so big that I can barely pick them up. I need to go get the weaning pen and shelter ready. It's almost that time.

I think Bridey's mom had a miscarriage. Which is's a bit soon for her to turn around and have another.

I got nothin'. Lots planned but nothin'. Maybe try to make it to snakehandling church this Saturday on a recce'.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Friend Scott Story ~ Part 1

Peggy had a troubled past. Her present was none too peaceful either. She was now in her late twenties and was fast approaching that point when well-used women lose their charms. She had just gotten out of three months in the Cocke county jail for tumbling her vehicle off the side of the mountain after a high speed chase with the local sheriff's department. Her daddy had left her in there this past time, though he had bailed her out many times before. The consensus was that having the county take care of her for a bit would give the rest of the family a bit of time to catch their breath.

You see, it wasn't the first time Peggy had driven off the mountain. It was the eleventh. By some mysterious protection given to alcoholics and drug addicts, Peggy had been too boneless at the time of her accidents to actually break anything while plummeting down a 60 foot cliff. These accidents are separate from the 20 plus times she had driven into the creek at various parts of Big Creek Road.

Peggy was a massive woman. She stood 6 feet in her hunting socks and had a bit of a weight problem. But her height allowed her to carry her 400 pounds much better than a shorter woman could. She had considerable trouble finding shoes that would fit her size 13 feet, so she usually just wore men's hiking boots. Today she was wearing those as well as a denim mini skirt that was stretched like paint onto her massive thighs. Her orange top had little spaghetti straps that kept slipping to reveal a black and buff leopard print bra. Where she had found that neon green banana clip holding her mass of frizzy black hair was anyone's guess.

Everyone said Peggy was a really sweet girl when she wasn't drunk or stoned...or both. Really she was. But those days were few and far between. It wasn't that Peggy was a mean or angry drunk. Peggy was a slutty drunk. A hyper-sexualized drunk can get in a world of trouble here.

Scott, Buddy, Mitch and Shelly looked out the window as Peggy groped around in the dirt, seeking purchase to lift herself off the ground.

"Shit, man, what's she doin' here?" Buddy said.

Peggy leveraged herself onto all unsteady fours and lurched up. She picked up the vodka bottle and looked at it. Then she reached into her beat-up Taurus and pulled out what looked like a prescription bottle. She chugged the pills and downed them with the last slug of vodka.

"It don't look good." Shelly fumed. "I've about stood all I can take from her. Let's not answer the door. If we're real quiet she'll just go on."

The good women of the mountain had, in outrage, turned their back on Peggy after the last time she had driven her car in the creek. That time she was tanked out on painkillers and xanax. She had her six year old son with her and he had broken his jaw in the accident.

Scott looked out, ducking his head to see out the low window.

"We can't let her get back in that car. You know we can't." He said.

Outside, Peggy had dropped the vodka bottle again. She turned her back to them and bent over from the hips to unsteadily pick the bottle up. Her skirt hiked up to reveal that she had misplaced her underpants. Everyone got a real good look at her private parts.

"Oh! Oh! Oh, my sweet Jesus!" Scott cried and pulled away from the window, clapping a hand to his eyes and stumbling away from the window as if wounded.

Buddy deadpanned, "Yep. That's not somethin' you see every day."

Mitch looked at Scott, then took in Shelly's angry expression. He wisely said nothing. Buddy clammed up.

"Fine." Shelly snapped. "You three deal with her. I'm done. Done, I tell you. Flat, slap, out DONE. I'll be at my Momma's."

With this Shelly stormed out into the kitchen and made her escape out the back door. She was tearing out of the driveway past the confused Peggy as the three men stepped out into the yard to deal with their unwelcome and very drunk cousin.

Peggy's eyes lit up when she saw them.

"Hey! You'uns want to have a little party?" She slurred, cupping her breasts and giving them a little bounce. The leopard print bra burst free from the tight orange top then coyly disappeared from view again.

The three men came down the porch steps and squared off in a line facing Peggy. Mitch's eyes mournfully followed the dust trail made by his wife's pickup truck.

"She could'a stayed and helped." He said.

The three cut their eyes at each other, much as they had done previously in the calf pen. They seemed to share silent communication in the way that hunters and cattlemen do. They slowly approached the drunken cousin.

Buddy took "point". "Hey, Peggy," he said quietly, so as not to spook her, "What ch'ou up to?" He slowly advanced towards her.

Scott closed in on the left flank.

Mitch was on the right flank, but he was still following Shelly's dust trail with his eyes.

Peggy took a few stumbling steps toward Buddy, who was staring her down like a she was a skittish steer.

She smiled widely at Buddy, approaching him. Buddy backed up so she would need to move further from the vehicle.

"Awww, you know, well...atchually, I just finished off my last Somas and was wondering if you'un's had any?"

Scott saw his chance and loped in on his long shanks into the space between Peggy and the Taurus. He reached in and grabbed the keys from the ignition, shouting "Got'em!"

Peggy turned and gave them all a confused look.

"Awwwww!" Her face crumpled and she began to cry sloppily. "You'uns are takin' my car keys! You give them back! Bwaaaaah!"

Scott retreated with the keys to stand behind Buddy.

This is not the first time such a scene has been acted out. Given the nature of Peggy's self-destructive nature, anyone who had her best interests at heart, or who merely respected her family, felt obligated to take Peggy's keys when she showed up like this. The resulting scene was almost always the same.

Peggy bolted off running towards the cow pasture. Mitch tried to head her off, but his flying tackle left him grasping air and spitting dust.

If she made it, she would wander around the mountain stoned out of her mind. She had gotten lost in the Gulf for two days once, tripping on acid. So, part of the ritual of taking Peggy's keys also included an attempt to keep her from running off, followed by taking her back home, if possible.

She was not an easy 6 foot tall, 400 pound drunk woman to deal with.

Peggy was running blindly. She ran right into the stout and thorny Mr. Lincoln rose bush, straddling it, then coming down hard on the other side of it screaming like a bawling heifer.

There was more blood than the three men had seen since last deer season.

"Shit, man, she's hurt herself!" Mitch said. "Peggy, what's wrong?"

Peggy lay on the ground rocking herself. She had hit that rose bush at full tilt, practically knocking the tree-like stem off its onion.

Scott's face blanched at all the blood that seemed to be blooming down her legs.

Peggy sputtered out between broken attempts to breathe, "'s my cooter!"

Buddy looked at Mitch, "Did she just say what I think she just said?"

Mitch looked grimly down at Peggy. "Fuckin' Shelly. We need Shelly."

Scott clapped his hands to his head and shook it like a dog. He stamped around in a circle.

"Look, man, we have to get her in the house. She's got to get herself cleaned up. We gotta get her home." Buddy said, trying to be reasonable.

It took the three of them to get her back on her feet and to slowly help her to the house.

"Oh, my cooter!" she moaned, "My cooter, it hurts!"

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It's pissing rain here today. They say we might get some snow tonight. Ah, well.

Oops...spoke too soon. It's snowing right now.

Here's some photos of previous Aprils. Happy Sunday.

Tulips growing outside an old spring house

April showers make the creeks rise

But it's best for rainbows

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The day had started off with a comforting degree of normality.

He was thinking of leaving the pink house in the hollow. It seemed like it was time to leave this place that had been both refuge and tomb. He knew that he could never truly be himself here and that the pink house would never be a house that he could share with someone he loved. He felt embarrassed by its tatty embrace sometimes.

Asheville was close-by and seemed attractive. Knoxville was an equal distance and also seemed like a good alternative to Grassy Fork. One thing he knew with certainty was that he would never be able to bring someone "home" to the pink house in the hollow. But he was conflicted on this. He dreamed of someday restoring the house to some shade of its former self, or to something more resembling what it should perhaps be. A cozy cottage in the mountains with all the charm and and warmth of a weekend getaway.

He dreamed these dreams as he sat, hunching his big frame on the porch steps. They had broken bits of wood and ancient nails sticking up. He mindlessly hammered them down with his claw hammer. They disappeared into the rotted wood and remained loose, waiting to pop back up with the slightest jarring.

The yard was covered in a peach fuzz of green as spring was trying to emerge. He knew every inch of this yard and where each trillium and lily lay slowly awakening in the nascent landscape. He knew because he had put them there, digging them from forests that were once homesteads long ago. Each had a history and he dreamed as he planted them of them coming west to this frontier with ancestors who also loved plants.

As he took stock of his roses, he decided to move them to more permanent and sunny places. He felt he might not be here next year and it was time to find them homes. When he had a home of his own, he could come back and get them, or their cuttings to bring to the place he felt he would finally call home.

And that was really how this day came into being, innocently enough.

He made plans with some of his cousins to do some yard work for them and to move his prize rose bushes to their place. The day was sunny and warmish for early spring when he did this work at Shelly and Mitch's house. He created a new raised rose bed in full sun for his beloved roses and did some work on the roses they already had planted there.

He spent a great deal of extra time on their ancient "Mr. Lincoln". It had grown all out of proportion and the main stem was as big as a sapling with huge lethal-looking thorns. Scott pared the big bush down severely.

"Don't worry, it really needs this." He reassured Shelly. "It will come back much more showy and be much healthier for it."

Not everyone appreciated Scott's knowledge and love of roses. Once, he held a job with the landscaping department of the city. While out on his rounds, he saw a poor straggling rose bush on what he thought was city property. He stopped to give it a good hard pruning. In the midst of his work, an enraged old man came out of a nearby house.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" He shouted.

Scott stood to his full height and cocked his head. "It needs pruning. I'm pruning it."

Turns out, the rose bush wasn't on town property. The man was furious and threatened to call a lawyer. Scott's co-workers dubbed him "the rose rapist". Scott was very upset about this. But that was a very Scott sort of thing...that he would see a rose bush and render aid to it even if it belonged to a stranger.

The Mr. Lincoln ended up being a dangerous thorny tree-like stump sticking out of the ground from its massive onion. It was ugly now, but Scott could see in his mind the large summer blooms it would produce in a few months.

After they finished up with the yardwork, Mitch's dad called and asked them to come over and help out with the calf tagging. A new crop of sweet-faced Black Angus had sprung up in the adjoining pasture. The three cousins shifted gears to go and shoo the stout little calves into a chute and give them all new little livestock earrings.

Scott had grown up with cattle so this was not a new experience to him. He and Mitch joined Mitch's daddy's hired hand, Buddy, in the enclosure while Shelly jumped up on the chute with the tagging gun. He seemed at ease within the confines of the stock pen shouting "Wooo, cow...wooop....woop...cow." He adjusted his direction without thinking, moving in a way that was loping and natural to one who was no stranger to stockyards.

And this was the start of Scott's perfectly normal Saturday. But things were about to turn strange as they so often do on the mountain. Strangeness is like the weather here. Before you know it, the sky is raining strange all around you and you have a ways to go before you can reach cover.

The strangeness arrived at Mitch and Shelly's house as they were all eating a bite of lunch and having a cold beer after the calf tagging. Buddy had come over for a visit. The strangeness arrived in the form of their mutual cousin, Peggy, who drove wildly into the yard skidding to a stop before she fell out of the driver's seat into a heap in the yard, clutching a nearly empty fifth of vodka.

Friday, April 13, 2007


It is getting to be almost that time again up here in the mountains.

When I first moved here, I was delighted to find wild strawberries growing all over the farm. These were the smallish and very sweet berries I remembered from my childhood and my time in the UK. English strawberries are truly something special. They take forever to gather enough for a few half pints of preserves but you can't find strawberries like this for sale anymore. You really have to go pick them.

My aunt Emmy Jo, shown on the left standing to the right of my grandmother, Rose, had a recipe for strawberry preserves that was a favorite of the entire family. They had to be eaten quite soon after she made them since the home canning technique from that time wasn't as safe as the current techniques. As I became more and more interested in canning, I started going through many of my family's old canning recipes and tested until I got a safe versions of the old recipes.

Her strawberry preserves were one of the first one's I tried to convert. Unfortunately, because of the large, watery nature of current commercial berries, this recipe is not as productive as it once was. I remember Aunt Emmy Jo's cupboard being filled with jars of these berries. My purchase of two gallons of berries from the local producer yielded only six pints.

But, if you pick your own, you can select those smaller, less watery berries that most people overlook.

This is my safe version of Aunt Emmy Jo's Strawberry Preserve recipe.

Emmy Joe's Strawberry Preserves

2 quarts of strawberries
2 tablespoons vinegar(or lemon juice)
1/2 package of liquid pectin
3 cups sugar

Wash, stem and drain well two quarts of strawberries. Put the berries in a pan over low fire and cook slowly until all juices appear to be extracted from berries. Add two tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice. Never stir the berries. Skim berries from juice and set aside. To one cup of juice, stir in 1/2 package of liquid pectin. Bring to a boil then add three cups of sugar. Bring to a rolling boil then add the berries, let . boil for one minute. Pour into sterile jars and seal. Place in a boiling water bath and process for 10 minutes. Berries will regain their original plumpness and color. Jars will need to be turned several times as they cool. Never make more than two quarts in one batch.
Emmy Jo Davis Brooks

But I'm starting to gear up for strawberry season. Mostly, I enjoy them fresh and just by themselves. They are lovely in fresh yoghurt.

Do you have any strawberry memories or favorites? Just one more month for my area!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


This is Bridey. The official spokesgoat for The Gods are Bored.
Her favorite thing is to sneak up behind you while you are walking and hook her front hooves over the back of your pants and pull them down. I have no idea what that is about, but she's left me bare assed more times than I can count.

Greedy Vi-vi

Vi-vi wouldn't take a bottle early on. But she would take a stranger's udder. That's not her mother she's going to town on. That's Pearlie, whose udder has been getting so tight that it is painful for her. Vi-vi will down that entire udder...a good half gallon...if I let her. Then stand there on the milk stand and expect me to restrain another doe for her. I am her best buddy because of this.

Kid Crush

Dinner time! Everyone wants on the porch for a snack.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Those with stupid birthday hats on their heads and the people who have the job of cutting the cake. Listen, the stupid birthday hat on my head is mine! I run the risks. So the next time, I want more than half of the damn cake.
It is V-man, the Tuco worshiper of Velociworld's birthday all day Wednesday, April 11th. It's the big 5-something or another. I tried to work the math out but I'm not so good at that.

Here's wishing him a happy birthday and I'm sure there will be ample adult beverages and here's hoping he manages to stay out of jail on his special day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Her mother died and was buried this past weekend.

When I heard about it, I was so sorry that I had not attended the viewing or the burial. Funerals are so important here. They are in so many ways the glue that holds the community together. Death is an important celebration on the mountain.

Jilly is delicately pretty in the way of mountain women. Her hair is raven black and her face is heart-shaped. I always marveled about her lovely milk-white skin. She's my age and thus an aging beauty, but still very lovely for a mountain woman. The mountain is hard on her women. They fade quickly like store bought flowers. You can only pick out the dead stems from the bouquet for so long.

The first time I met her I had gone to her house to pick up some hay. Her family's farm is on the verge of the Gulf and has long lovely stretches of green grass pasture. She often does not feel well and lays on a day bed near the front window where she can look out onto the grasslands.

But that first visit, she was feeling okay. She showed me her glass paintings of chickens and sun flowers on old windows. I thought they were amazing examples of outsider art. I've never been able to get paint to do that on glass. I've tried. I loved her art and encouraged her to keep at it. I told her about my friends from Atlanta who would love such work.

She smiled and dimpled. Then delicately spat a brown stream of tobacco juice into an empty coke can. She wiped her mouth daintily with a handkerchief.

Her son, Bobby, had been up to my place to cut wood for me a few times. Their family knows their way around a saw mill. Bobby is tall and handsome. All of the members of this family are extremely comely. I watched carefully as Bobby used his boot to manipulate the big log as he sawed through it. I learned most of my own chainsaw technique by watching him.

So, I was sad to hear that her Momma had died. I hadn't been keeping up with the local papers and had missed it.

Betty told me about it after the fact.

They arranged her dead mother's hair into an elaborate up do of glossy black hair.

People like to keep their hair jet black up here. Dying it that color even when the face has lost the warmth and smoothness of youth.

Another woman had told me about when her own mother had died. They had not done that to her mother, but there was a bit of a ruckus at the viewing. One of her competitors for her elderly suitor's affections had shown up at the funeral. She was occupied with the business of being a grieving daughter when she caught the transgressor entering the funeral home from the corner of her eye.

Evaline was 81 years old. She showed up with her jet black wig and wore a fringed red dress with a plunging neckline that left little to the imagination in this world without plastic surgery. She had on black hose with shiny red peep-toe pumps and red, red lips. She fumed as she watched the octogenarian hussy drape herself over the suitor in the middle of the funeral home.

Widows come out of the woodwork here for funerals. You never know when a widower might need a sympathetic bosom to rest his weary head on. Widowers don't stay that way long up here. No sirree.

We dubbed Evaline the "Funereal Flirt". It's one of my favorite stories.

But Jilly's mom's funeral was a different matter. Jilly's mom's favorite color was red. She had loved red her entire life. And so her family honored her with redness for her last goodbye.

Contrasting her black hair, they painted her corpse's lips a rich bright glossy red. Each fingernail was lovingly decorated with bright red enamel. She was dressed in the brightest of red dresses and laid in her bright red coffin with white silk lining, like a cherry in a basket.

The funeral home was decorated with swags of red satin and bouquets of red roses and the usual arrangements so popular in this area. The crimson horseshoe with the white phone in the middle that says, "Jesus Calls" and sprays of red mums and the blessed relief of babies breath were everywhere.

All of the mourners wore red. They gathered for the viewing and sat there praying with soft sobbing in the background. The preacher preached his sermon of redemption for one who went to Jesus so close to Easter. Then they all filed out to ride in the big limos back to the mountain.

From a distance in the cold mountain spring air, a swath of crimson was seen for as far as one could see. A small sea of crimson mourners stood in sharp contrast to the sea of spring green that was the big pasture. They laid her to rest in the small family graveyard with two centuries of her kin.

I know Jilly is very sad. It's so hard to lose your Momma. I think she should be proud she sent her Momma off with such style. It's not what most of us would do, but I find great beauty in it.

I think I might make a Red Velvet cake and take up to them. Or they maybe might be sick of that by now, so perhaps Wet Coconut.

With a red, red rose on the side.

Monday, April 09, 2007

"A good manner is the best letter of recommendation among strangers. Civility, refinement and gentleness are passports to hearts and homes, while awkwardness, coarseness and gruffness are met with locked doors and closed hearts".
Our Deportment. 1881

Or in the case of the SMB....Comment Moderation.

I'm sad to say that for the first time ever, I have had to turn the comment moderation feature on. 99.9 percent of you know what sort of blog you are reading. You know from my blogroll that I frequent and befriend bloggers of various political persuasions, sexual orientations, religious affiliations and varied and sundry personality disorders. The recurrent themes of my particular little 19th century style salon are Appalachian life, spirituality, goats, farm animals, my writing and me, me, me and now some more about me. You know from my profile that I am a liberal progressive Democrat and should expect that my views will once in a while come to the fore. But I rarely post things that invite heated debate. If I do, then I most certainly expect it and posted it for that very reason. You, the reader, are expected to have the wherewithal to know the difference.

What this blog is not about are personal attacks on me, meanness, or a platform for you to express how I should be more like you. You are more than welcome to go back to your own blog and do exactly that. For, whatever else I may be, and I have many unconventional sides, I am first and foremost, the daughter of a very rigid social structure that values fairly antiquarian rules of conduct and deportment.

So, please, don't be surprised, if after slighting the hostess in her own home, to find that your dance card has been unceremoniously ripped from your wrist and you are not invited back to the cotillion.

I say this not to dissuade those who have mastered the fine art of injecting humor and satire into their most certainly know who you are. A good rule of thumb to follow if you are not one of these gifted people would be, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." In other words, use your good judgement to know when your comments are likely to come off as proselytizing, judgemental or offensive. If you seem to find your judgement often misleading you, go back to the second sentence in this paragraph.

So terribly sorry to have burst anyone's bubble who was thinking the SMB was a democracy.

Indeed, it is a little fascist banana republic rigidly but benevolently ruled by BossyToe, The Liberal Mind Control Goat.

Those wishing to escape BossyToe's dastardly liberal mind rays, and becoming her slavish follower, would be well advised to follow the example of Patti, The Conservative Anti-Mind Control Goat.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring Chicks

see that little bump on his beak tip? that's an "egg tooth"

It is once more, time for me to do my Easter lesson on baby chicks and the hatching process. I do this each year so that kids can get to see a chick hatch least on the internet. They don't do this in schools as they did when I was young, I'm told. And it's probably a good thing, since, as many times I saw a class try to hatch seldom worked.

And that was an okay lesson. Things don't always go as planned in the messy, creative world of reproduction. Not only do good things happen. Very bad things happen too. We'll look at some of both.

I like to put my eggs in the incubator about 21 days before Easter. That's how long it takes for a chick to hatch. If you time it right, it's a really wonderful thing to come downstairs on Easter morning and hear them coming out of their shells. My dogs usually let me know as soon as there are signs of life coming from the hatching closet.

Chicks hatch at 99.5 degrees and need a steady source of humidity. You have to measure the temperature and the humidity several times a day for the entire 21 day period.

The Pip

Here is the "pip". Actually this pip is enlarged, the original pip is just a tiny chip in the egg.

Chicks, when they start to hatch, first break through the membrane to practice breathing. You know that pocket of air on the big side of the boiled egg? That's what that is for. Breathing practice.

After the chick breathes up that pocket of air, they break through the shell to let more air in. The chicks have a special little "tooth" on their beak they use to do this. The "egg tooth" falls off when the chick hatches. The little bump on the "chin" of the chick in the top photo is the "egg tooth".

If this looks painful, messy and probably is. Nonetheless, it's very important not to "help" the chicks when they are emerging from the shell. That is one of the bad things that can happen. If you help a chick out of its shell, then sometimes that chick never learns to walk.

This struggle is also important for internal organ development. Chicks who are assisted at hatching don't survive, or if they do, they tend to be weak and runty. Sometimes they die later. Sometimes, they have trouble laying eggs when they grow up.

Before the chick can hatch, they must first absorb the egg yolk up into their abdomen. This allows the chicks to survive for three days without any water or food. This is why you can order chicks from a hatchery and have them arrive in the mail. They have everything they need at birth to last them three days.

The yolk is one of the last things the chick absorbs into itself. Sometimes it has already broken through the shell and is still taking the yolk up. It sort of sucks the yellow egg yolk up through what we would consider our bellybutton. When we are born, we have a cord that runs from our mother to us and provides nourishment, the chick only has its egg yolk and it takes it with him when he hatches. One of the things that can go wrong is that the yolk will fail to absorb. These chicks don't live long.

Once they are out of their shells, they stay in the incubator for about an hour or more to dry off and fluff up. They make a lot of noise while they are doing this and will sometimes go up to an unhatched egg and "peep" really loudly at it as if encouraging the chick to hatch. The chicks will imprint on you if you are the first creature they see. But they don't do it very strongly. Baby chicks sometimes do better being raised by humans rather than the hen who hatched them. They forget any attachment they feel for you in about six weeks.

They do have to be kept very warm. We use lights to do this and sometimes we use red lights. Red light doesn't show blood and baby chicks can sometimes be very mean to each other. The red light keeps them from doing that.

Some of you may be thinking..."Gee...I thought baby chicks were yellow". Well, certain breeds do produce yellow chicks. Generally, white and lighter colored chickens produce yellow chicks. Buff Orpingtons...a big fat gorgeous golden chicken...produces beautiful rich gold colored chicks. A great place to look at how chicks look next to their adult counterparts is Murray McMurray Hatcheries. They have a wonderful catalog with really beautiful chicken pictures.

My breeds of chicks are darker because they grow up into darkly patterned chickens.

Enjoy your day!